After completing a contract buyout with the Memphis Grizzlies, Dwight Howard will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Los Angeles Lakers that comes with a clear message, league sources tell ESPN: Disrupt this team — and you’ll be gone.
In meetings with Lakers management, coaches and teammates who included Anthony Davis late this week, Howard sold himself as an eight-time All-Star who had hit “rock bottom,” in the words of one team source, and promised that he’d humbly accept the responsibility to rebound and block shots for the Lakers.
He showed the Lakers that his surgically repaired back was healthy, that he had lost 25 pounds to get into better condition, and ultimately the Lakers chose him over Joakim Noah, sources said.
With DeMarcus Cousins likely lost for the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, and Davis reticent to play significant minutes at center, the Lakers and Howard found themselves needing each other for a reunion of a miscast partnership that fizzled in the 2012-2013 season.
For years, Howard has sold an almost annual idea of a personal renaissance and epiphany, only to infuriate coaches and teammates with behavior that moved from selfish on the court to childish and disruptive off of it. Since signing with the Atlanta Hawks as a free agent in 2016, Howard has been traded three times and waived twice. The Lakers will be his sixth team in five years — far from the All-Star and All-Defensive team appearances with Orlando and Houston.
The Lakers will hold the leverage on Howard, able to cut him prior to the NBA’s Jan. 7 deadline to guarantee contracts for the season without cost to the team. Howard’s arrival moves the Lakers roster to a full 15 players. His contract buyout with the Grizzlies — who acquired him in an offseason trade from Washington — will require him to clear waivers next week before signing with the Lakers.
The Lakers will be Howard’s fifth team since signing as a free agent in Atlanta in 2016. He’s played with the Hawks, Charlotte and Washington — and been waived after trades to Brooklyn and Memphis without ever wearing a uniform. He played only nine games with Washington before back surgery ended his season.